The Revenger's Tragedy

Definition

Theater

  • A violent tragedy published anonymously in 1607 and performed in London at about the same time. Scholars are divided over the authorship, with some favouring Cyril Tourneur (c. 1575 - 1626) but more now supporting Thomas Middleton. After three centuries of neglect - the 19th-century critic William Archer memorably dismissed the play as "a mere farrago ofsanguinary absurdities ... a product either of sheer barbarism or of some pitiable psychopathic perversion" - it was revived in 1966 at Stratford-upon-Avon with Tourneur given as the author. Trevor Nunn's productionproved an unexpected success and transferred to the Aldwych Theatre three yearslater. There was another RSC revival in 1987, when Antony Sher starred as Vindice.

    In its cynicism, violence, and emphasis on corruption in high places, theplay is typical of its period and genre. The plot revolves around Vindice's desire to avenge the death of his mistress, who was poisoned by the duke after she rejected his advances. Vindice enters the court in disguise and eventually murdersthe duke by having him kiss the poisoned skull of his victim. Other characters are killed in a final orgy of bloodletting. Vindice confesses to murdering the duke andis led to his execution.

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